Halvard Johnson


Establishment candidates love anonymous targets.
Eventually, conquest leaves a taste.
Everyone can levitate at times.
Erstwhile companions lackadaisically achieve thoughtfulness.
Easy comfort—light and tawdry.
Endangered, counterfeiters liquidate assets today.

In Continuum

Ab initio, subways always ran on one track north,
another track south, tracks bending eastward
or westward as necessary.

Hot passions swell with savage wrath, Armenian
songsters sing. The girl on the running track
has left her little dog at home, the one that always
(almost) trots along behind her.

Egrets, back another year to aim for immortality
of species, build their nests, or rebuild those
of last year. "Guanábana, guanábana," they cry
from treetop perches.

The stock of the Danes begins with Dan and Angul
(sprung from Humble, their father) and con-
tinues through this present day and ever onward,
until, upon meeting the knife, turnips spurt blood. . . .

Large Floating Objects

Air bubbles back from the abode below, rash enterprises
verging on collapse, a woman so large her head reaches
the stars, zeppelins, trophies of vengeance sought and won,
houseboats on Amsterdam canals bought cheap and restored
once more to life, bits of a plane that vanished, weather
balloons, tanker ships carrying Somali pirates under flags
of convenience to their new homes in America's Midwest,
burnished barges on the Nile, space stations tethered
loosely to a shrinking, dying planet.

Flight Plan

               Pollen is its own godhead.
                               —Gustaf Sobin

From tree to plant to flower, the pollen flies,
little galaxies from universes and multiverses
as yet unborn. Somewhere, perhaps over
the southern Indian Ocean, it vanishes, having
altered its own flight plan by a radical degree.
The summer water warm enough to soothe
while drowning, carrying plant debris to depths
as yet unsounded. Scent of jasmine, lingering.

Essential English (for foreign students)

Lesson 1: Construct a sentence using all, or all but a few,
                     of the following words or expressions:

mandible, thrill, juxtaposition, hell or high water,
wandering, flying buttresses

Lesson 2: Give short responses to the following, expressing

1. Jan is a very lucky fellow.
2. He'll come again tomorrow, won't he?
3. Lucille speaks English well.
4. Sven answered that question correctly.
5. Don't you think he ought to repay the money?
6. It's begun to rain again.
7. Should that window still be open?
8. I'm very fond of chocolate.

Lesson 3: Without using Google, translate each of the following
                      into your own language and at least two others:

1. Llewellyn was so filled with sorrow that it is said
               he never smiled again.
2. Somewhere or other, Wallace Stevens said that
               English and French constitute one single language.
3. Well, what's good enough for a professor of Ancient
               Languages is good enough for me.


Not noticing
that he’d done
so, or perhaps hoping
we’d not notice that he’d done
so, he left the door ajar about
three or four inches when he
entered the office.

The interviewer came out
from behind his desk,
perched on one of his guest’s
knees and said, “Now, tell
me a little something
about yourself.”

Modes of Transport

Entrained specimens of alien lifeforms,
carfuls of carefully frozen celebrities.
Untrapt planets spinning their axles
on swings of song. Her perfect sense
had weakened or remained silent,
pressing hard for a moment,
starting to play.

Halvard Johnson was born in Newburgh, New York, and grew up in New York City and the Hudson Valley. He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Baltimore City Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He has lived and taught in Chicago, Illinois; El Paso, Texas; Cayey, Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; and New York City. For many years he taught overseas in the European and Far East divisions of the University of Maryland, mostly in Germany and Japan. Currently, he lives with his wife, the prize-winning writer and visual artist Lynda Schor in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
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